University and College Union (UCU) members in higher education across Britain are currently being consulted on the “full and final” offer for 2015-16 made to the union by the University and Colleges Employers Association. The national higher education sector conference held in Glasgow in May debated the 0.9 per cent pay offer and resolved that UCU should call for members to reject the offer, to vote yes for strike action and yes to action short of a strike such as marking and assessment boycotts.
The Higher Education Committee will meet on 26 June to discuss the pay ballot result and next steps. Subject to the decisions taken, UCU is likely to conduct a statutory ballot in September.
To ensure the maximum effect on the employers’ core business and minimise damage to themselves, as in any battle union members will need to be creative and devious in the use of guerrilla tactics including action short of a strike – as well as ensuring plans for strike action are carefully targeted.
Higher education union branches across Britain will need to consider carefully the next steps on pay and in particular what type of action would be most effective. What aspects of the employers’ core business can most easily (for us) be interfered with by selective action short of a strike? Conducted alongside public and unifying strike action, such tactics can be highly effective.
‘It is to UCU members’ credit that they are operating as a UK-wide national unionIt is to UCU members’ credit that they are operating as a UK-wide national union.’
For example, staff might consider putting spanners in the works of the management-heavy performance-dominated regime under which they suffer. Universities cannot function without the constant and monumentally time-consuming electronic daily form-filling demanded of academic staff, very little of which contributes to the quality of teaching, research or external engagement – the real core business of universities.
It is to UCU members’ credit that they are operating as a UK-wide national union and we can capitalise on the extra strength such unity brings. A fragmented workforce is always the employers’ dream.
The pay offer is for an increase in all pay points of 1 per cent. It is tapered to secure the equivalent of the living wage for staff paid on the lower spinal pay points. Although UCU repeatedly made strong and detailed arguments in support of a pay offer which addressed the accumulated shortfall in pay and gave some protection to members’ incomes, the offer was improved only marginally from an initial 0.8 per cent during the course of three meetings.